Twin Cities Orthopedics Revolutionizes Orthotics with 3D Printing

Karen Sams
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Imagine being able to print a pair of custom foot orthotics1 right in your doctor’s office?  No more waiting 2 – 4 weeks for your orthotics to come back from the podiatrists office via the lab, while crossing your fingers that they will actually fit.

Edina, MN, September 30, 2015 Through a revolutionary new 3D printing system, Twin Cities Orthopedics podiatrist, Paul Langer, is one of four doctors nationwide currently printing patient orthotics via a 3D printer in his office.  With the new technology, Dr. Langer can now fit, adjust and re-make the orthotic as needed right in his office, all on the same day.

The technology, created and patented by OLT, works by scanning the patient’s foot, which is then converted into a 3D CAD model on a screen.  The software that connects the scanner to the printer allows Dr. Langer to build in corrections to the model before sending it to  the printer.

OLT founder, Yong Li, got the idea for this technology after discovering how manual the existing process was for creating custom orthotics.  “I was surprised to see someone manually matching templates and castings in a factory,” he says. “Sometimes it would take 3 or 4 attempts before the correct match was found. There was clearly a need for an automated process.”

Dr. Langer says that when he prescribes orthotics to a patient, he is making an educated guess on what will work for that patient based on a biomechanical exam. “There is no way to measure for comfort,” he says. “The nice thing about 3D printing is that we can print out different versions of the orthotic and let the patient pick the most comfortable one – without incurring big cost of multiple orthotic devices. In fact, it still turns out to be much cheaper than sending it away to the lab to be re- produced.”

3D printing is also a way to eliminate the huge variations that currently exist in the production of custom orthotics.  Dr. Langer says that how an orthotic is produced really depends on the individual technician.  Two different labs will take the same specifications and produce two completely different sets of orthotics. The OLT system allows  Dr. Langer to digitally control the orthotic design and make incremental adjustments. This type of control is not currently available. “You send your order to a lab. There’s no review and no adjustments. You receive the end product in 2 – 4 weeks in the mail and if it’s not right, you make adjustments to the order and you try again.”

“The biggest benefits of this technology are cost, accessibility and accuracy”, says Dr. Langer. “The cost of producing the orthotics is dramatically reduced, I can deliver the end product to my patients much more quickly, and the accuracy of computer modeling and precision printing makes the orthotic more comfortable and effective.”

Dr. Langer says that the future of orthotics is in 3D printing. “I think we’ll ultimately see this kind of technology in the retail industry,” he says. “You’ll be able to scan your foot and print your orthotic right at the shoe store.  And in the not too distant future, patients may even print their own orthotics at home.”

The technology is also not limited to orthotics. Li says that it can ultimately be used to print prosthetics, wrist splints and custom ankle braces.

1About Foot Orthotics

Custom foot orthotics are in-shoe supports that are made from a cast or computer scan of a patient’s foot in order to support and align the foot and ankle.  They are used to treat common lower extremity painful conditions and injuries such as plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, arthritis, sports injuries and knee pain.

About Twin Cities Orthopedics

For over 70 years Twin Cities Orthopedics has proudly offered a full spectrum of orthopedic care, devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries and conditions that affect the body's muscles, joints and bones. Twin Cities Orthopedics is the largest orthopedic group in Minnesota and one of the top three nationwide with 86 physicians and more than 25 locations across the metro. TCO treats approximately 260,000 patients and performs over 33,000 surgeries annually.

About OLT

OLT provides LED structured light-based foot scanners and a comprehensive product line of prefabricated foot orthotics, including different arch support levels and a range of sizes/stiffness.